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Pilot Safely Lands After Plane Wheel Falls Off

August 2, 2008

By Allison Steele, The Philadelphia Inquirer

Aug. 2–Four members of a Cherry Hill family were unhurt after broken landing gear on their small plane forced an emergency landing at an Albany, N.Y., airport yesterday afternoon.

James Stephans was flying his wife, 13-year-old daughter, and 7-year-old son back from a vacation in the Adirondacks in a rented single-engine plane, said Doug Myers, a spokesman for Albany International Airport.

The family had just taken off from an airfield near Piseco Lake when Stephans heard what sounded like a thump coming from the left side of the plane. When Stephans radioed to the ground, he learned that the fixed gear and wheel had fallen off, Myers said.

Stephans elected to fly about 65 miles to the Albany airport, where the runways are wider than at smaller airfields. Stephans, whom Myers said had five or six years of flying experience, landed cautiously, keeping the left side of the plane up until the plane had slowed, then gently touching down on the side that had lost its wheels.

The plane spun once, then came to a stop without injuring anyone, Myers said.

“He did an outstanding job,” Myers said. “He knew exactly what to do.”

Airport traffic was delayed for about 10 minutes, but there was no serious damage to the plane. The Stephans family rented a car and were driving back to Cherry Hill last night, Myers said.

Contact staff writer Allison Steele at 856-779-3838 or asteele@phillynews.com.

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